The mirror was her only friend, she thought. That morning, as always, it would tell her the truth of how far from perfect she had strayed and how much effort she needed to make to get back to acceptability.
That morning, the mirror betrayed her.
She sat down before it, looked up smiling (always smile, it makes you more attractive), and saw a stranger scowling back at her. She screamed.
Mike came in to see what was up.
‘What’s wrong now?’
‘It’s not my face in the mirror.’
‘It looks like you,’ he said, peering over her shoulder.
The stranger’s face looked scared now, but then so did her own face. She could feel the fear on it.
‘Are you going crazy?’ he said.
She froze, laughed nervously.
‘No,’ she said, ‘no. It was just a trick of the light.’
‘Stupid scared herself. What a surprise.’
After he left for work, she found their wedding album, and had no trouble recognising her own face in the photos, though she looked younger and happier. Yet — in the reflections on the glossy surfaces of the prints she could still see that other face.
Trying not to be afraid, she went back to look in the mirror and saw an attractive woman with very dark brown hair, worn long, and light brown, almost amber, eyes. Nothing like herself, with her dyed-blonde hair and grey eyes.
She stared at that other face for several minutes, then turned away, not wanting to know what it meant.
For the next few days she avoided mirrors and reflective surfaces, doing her hair and make-up by feel, pretending that nothing was wrong. Occasionally she took a quick glimpse out of the corner of her eye, hoping that the other one was gone, but she was always still there. It seemed as if the other was trying to say something to her, but she did not want to look.
Laura was distracted. She had been for some days now, quite unable to think straight. That was why she did not see it coming. Walking along the street, trying to find a tissue in the bottom of her bag, she heard a gasp and glanced up to see that woman staring at her with wide open grey eyes out of a slightly pudgy face framed by unkempt dyed-blonde hair. The woman from the mirror.
Laura imagined that the look of shock was reflected in her own expression. They could hardly resemble each other less, but here in real life they were mirrors for each other’s reaction.
I have to tell her, Laura thought, now that she can hear me.
‘You have to run away,’ she said. ‘He wants to kill you.’
The woman was even more shocked, but there was no time to explain.
‘What’s wrong now?’ said Mike. ‘You look like you’ve seen a ghost. Matter of fact, you look like you are a bloody ghost.’
She turned back, but the dark-haired woman had disappeared. She couldn’t tell him anyway, could she? In his eyes, at last she saw the truth of what he was really thinking, and understood that there was no way for her to change it.
Laura saw him steer the young woman away. When she saw him coming, she dodged into a shop doorway to hide. All she could do was to hope that this time she had been understood.
The others — the last time she saw their faces was in newspaper reports of disappearances or deaths. This one was the first Laura had encountered in real life.
The reflection in the shop window showed only her own, exhausted face. Laura hoped that she would never again see someone else.